Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lord is at the Helm


The Lord is at the Helm

Given March 11, 2012 in my church's Sacrament meeting

I was asked to share a message based on the analogy, “The Lord is at the Helm.”  

Being among experienced sailors and those who work on various types of boats for a living I thought I would start my talk discussing everything I know about boats, specifically submarines.  And everything I know I learned from my husband in a just a few minutes.  So this shouldn’t take too long.

I looked up the word helm just to be sure I got the definition right and found that, yes, the helm is a ship’s steering mechanism.  I also found that the phrase “at the helm” is used to mean “in control.”  

On a submarine the captain is the one in charge.  He is “at the helm” in an overall sense, as he is the one in control, but he isn’t the one who physically steers the boat.  There are those with authority under him as well and they don’t even physically steer the boat.  So who holds that vital position?  Who has been given that much control as to steer where the boat is headed?  I learned that the position is held by the most junior sailor probably straight out of boot camp.  Why is this?  This is because all he has to do is follow simple instructions and orders from those in charge.  All he has to do is trust that what he is being told to do by those who are in authority is right and is for the good of the mission and then do it.  The captain is at the helm of the submarine as he holds supreme control, but the junior sailor plays the vital role of physically steering the subs course and affecting the success of the whole mission.

Can this not be paralleled to our lives?  The Lord is our captain.  He is at the helm in an overall sense, but He isn’t physically steering our every move.  He even has those in authority under Him on the earth in the form of Apostles and Prophets, but they don’t physically steer our course either.  So who does hold that vital position?  Who has been given that much control as to steer where our life is headed?  That’s right I steer my life and you steer yours.  We are junior sailors on this submarine called life.  Why is this?  This is because all we have to do is show that we can follow simple instructions and orders from those in charge.  All we have to do is learn to trust that what we are being told to do by those who are in authority is right and is for the good of our mission here on the earth and then do it.  The Lord is at the helm in our lives, but we play the vital role of physically steering our course and affecting the success of our mission here on the earth.  

Of course, this is easier said than done at times.  

Just like a sailor needs to learn to trust his captain and those he has given authority, we too need to learn to trust the Lord as well as the Apostles and Prophets who He has given authority.  So how do we do learn to trust the Lord?

In his talk, titled To be Healed, Elder Richard G. Scott (April 1994 General Conference) gives a few good ways we can learn to trust the Lord. He says, “Your access to the Savior’s help comes in different ways. The most direct and often the most powerful way is through humble, trusting prayers to your Father in Heaven, which are answered through the Holy Ghost to your spirit. Yet this help is sometimes difficult to initiate and hard to recognize when you are learning how to pray with faith. If so, begin elsewhere. Trust someone near to you; then as you learn, that trust will extend to God and His healing. Begin with a friend or bishop who understands the teachings of the Savior. Often they have personally obtained healing through application of truth with faith in the Redeemer. They can show you how. Or start by reading, pondering, and applying the teachings of the scriptures. They are a very powerful source of assistance.

I know that as I use the power of prayer, look to the example of others who trust the Lord, and take advantage of the scriptures my trust in the Lord has, and continues to increase.  These are applications that can and must be used time and time again throughout our lives.  

I would now like to make a few more parallels between a submarine and our lives and make the point that through these parallels we can remember that the Lord is at the helm.  They are...

1) we don’t always see where we are going.
2) we don’t always want to continue in our current position, situation, or circumstance.
3) we don’t always understand the impact of our choices or challenges.

1) we don’t always see where we are going.

On a submarine when you are under the water you don’t see the light of day.  You may not know where you are in the world or where you are going.  You may not even know what is the purpose of your mission.

Sometimes we may find ourselves in those same conditions.  We may feel that we are surrounded by darkness and don’t know where we are going or what is our purpose in life.  

VIRGINIA U. JENSEN, a former First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency gave a talk titled, Lead, Kindly Light. She says, “Throughout the scriptures, and indeed in the writings of thoughtful Christians through the centuries, we find examples of how Christ’s message of light and salvation can spiritually and physically sustain us. As a young priest traveling in Italy in 1833, Englishman John Henry Newman encountered emotional and physical darkness when illness detained him there for several weeks. He became deeply discouraged, and a nurse who saw his tears asked what troubled him. All he could reply was that he was sure God had work for him to do in England. Aching to return home, he finally found passage on a small boat.
Not long after the ship set sail, thick fog descended and obscured the hazardous cliffs surrounding them. Trapped for a week in the damp, gray darkness, the ship unable to travel forward or back, Newman pled for his Savior’s help as he penned the words we now know as the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light.”
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom; …
The night is dark, and I am far from home; …
Keep thou my feet; …
one step enough for me.
This hymn echoes a truth our hearts confirm: though trials may extinguish other sources of light, Christ will illuminate our path, “keep our feet,” and show us the way home. For as the Savior has promised, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12).

When I have felt unsure of where I was going in life I have found that the Lord truly gives light and understanding if I allow Him.

2) we don’t always want to continue in our current position, situation, or circumstance.

I imagine that the junior sailor steering the boat at some point might get bored or tired of his job.  At first it may be exciting, but there may come a point where he thinks he’s got it down and can take on something else.  Maybe he doesn’t think it’s all that important.  

Might we get this attitude sometimes in life.  Maybe we get tired of our situation or think that what we are doing is not all that important?  

Alma, the son of the Alma, recognized this attitude in himself, even though what he was desiring was quite righteous.  He cries, “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!”  But then he stops himself and says, “But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” (Alma 29:1-3)

This scripture helped me understand that I need to be content with whatever situation, position, or circumstance the Lord places me in and to take the opportunity to learn and grow as much as possible because the Lord knows best and knows what I need and where I can do the greatest good.

Elder Scott adds some more insight to this topic from the talk already quoted.  He says, “Recognize that some challenges in life will not be resolved here on earth. Paul pled thrice that “a thorn in the flesh” be removed. The Lord simply answered, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” He gave Paul strength to compensate so he could live a most meaningful life. He wants you to learn how to be cured when that is His will and how to obtain strength to live with your challenge when He intends it to be an instrument for growth. In either case the Redeemer will support you”

3) we don’t always understand the impact of our choices and challenges.

On a submarine the sailors may not realize what their mission is.  They may not realize the effect that steering in a certain course or gathering certain data and information or activating a missile or torpedo may have on their lives and the lives of others.

It is the same in our lives.  We may not realize the impact our choices and even challenges we face may have on our lives or others.  This is a concept I have been contemplating for some time and am coming to embrace as true doctrine.  It has given me much hope and helps me see my challenges in a different light.

The story of Abinadi and King Noah is a great example of this concept.  Abinadi was told to cry repentance unto the wicked King Noah and his priests.  He did as he was told and suffered greatly.  The scriptures say that as he finished his preaching “there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken.”  (Mosiah 17:2).  We then learn that Alma fled for his life because he believed Abinadi and then Abinadi was scourged by fire unto death.  We know the profound effect Abinadi’s words had on Alma and the subsequent good that resulted, but I imagine Abinadi was not privy to that information before his death.  Abinadi just went about doing as he was told despite how hard it must have been.  He only could trust that the Lord was at the helm.

On a personal note, many of you know that my husband and I have had challenges in regards to bearing children.   But through this challenge I have a come to see how the Lord is at the helm in our lives.  There are many lessons I have learned and many blessings that have come, but I will relate just one example.  After deciding to start our family through adoption we filled out the necessary paperwork and were accepted as adoptive parent applicants.  A few months later we received a phone call in the early evening that there was a mother who wanted to place her one month old baby boy for adoption.  We were told the placement was not for sure, but if we were willing to accept the situation we could come to the office the next morning and meet the mother and take the baby home.  We accepted and we brought the baby boy into our home and family. We called him Benjamin.  We loved him for the month that he was our little boy, and still do, but he is now being cared for by his loving mother.  There was, and still is at times, sadness and heartache for the loss, but somehow we were blessed with great peace and trust that the Lord was in control.  A few months later we received another phone call from our case worker.  Another mother was going to give birth to a little boy in a few months and she had chosen us to be his parents.  And you all know the end of that story.  We were blessed to become the parents of our little boy, Zac.  What I would like to point out is that I truly believed that it was because of our experience with Benjamin that Zac had come into our lives.  In fact, just recently our amazing birth mother related part of the reason she chose us to be the parents to her boy.  She said that she was told about me and Rick and how we handled the situation with Benjamin and his mother and that that was a big determining factor in why she chose us to be Zac’s parents.  Truly our choices and challenges have a great impact on us and the lives of others.  Truly, the Lord is at the helm.  


I would like to end with a quote from Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley while he was the First Counselor in the First Presidency.  This is from the April 1994 General Conference in his talk titled, “God is at the Helm.”  He says, “God is at the helm. Never doubt it. When we are confronted with opposition, He will open the way when there appears to be no way. Our individual efforts may be humble and appear somewhat insignificant. But the accumulated good works of all, laboring together with a common purpose, will bring to pass great and wondrous accomplishments. The world will be a better place for our united service. Our people will be a happy people, a blessed people, a people whose shepherd is our Lord, leading us through pastures green and peaceful, if we will walk after His pattern and in His light.


I know that the Lord is our light and is at the helm in our lives.  As we learn to trust Him, He will help us know where we are going, to be content with our situations, positions, or circumstances in life, and will help us see that our choices and challenges are known by the Lord and can bless our lives and the lives of others.

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